FOUR tips for writing effective notes

Apr 20, 2021 | Blog

So many students believe that they can write effective notes, but in my experience, this is misplaced self-confidence! Do you have reams and reams of notes? Do you copy straight out of the book? Do you highlight everything?  Then you may not be as effective as you believe.

Effective note-taking is key for every course you undertake, whether in CIPS qualifications or not.  However, it is of utmost importance for the research module at Level 6, Future Strategic Challenges for the profession.  Here are four tips to write effective notes.

1. Selecting the most important information

The first and most crucial part is selecting what information is important.  I often have students ask me, do I need to learn this?  The answer is yes if it relates to a learning outcome.  Remember the questions are asked for the learning outcomes (these are contained within learning objectives, so 1.1, 1.2, etc with all the bullets below.)

When researching or reading the textbook, check back to the learning outcomes and ensure that the area you are reading about actually relates to the specific learning outcome.  It is easy to get distracted and go off on a tangent.

2. Highlighting

If you are reading large pieces of text, such as a journal or academic textbook, highlighting can be effective to focus your attention. I like to use different colour highlights for different topics.  Assign yourself a different for each learning outcome so you know which area the text relates back to.

However, be careful! Too much highlighting can distract you and cause you to write extra notes and spend even more time.  As a rule, you should restrict your highlighting to no more than 10% of the text.

3. Headers

Using headers can help you summarise quickly and can aid memory, especially for those of you who may prefer a more visual learning style.  You can then picture the headers, which will help promote memory.

Good headings provide a clear structure and help you organise your notes, so they are more cohesive and clear.

4. Self-explanation

When dealing with complex and difficult concepts, self-explanation can be especially helpful.  This strategy is where you explain what you are reading back to yourself in your own words to help aid your understanding.  This then allows you to write notes that are meaningful to you, in your own words and not a direct copy from the book.

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